By HALEY ANDERSON/Montana State News
Waking up at 6 a.m. to practice a sport you pay $1,500 annually to play, and traveling from Montana to Washington, to Colorado on weekends to play are all conditions that go along with being an MSU Lacrosse player.
These student-athletes have a commitment to each other to produce on the field and in the classroom and this season they have been accomplishing both set goals.
The MSU Lacrosse team will attend the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference (RMLC) Division II Conference Championships May 3, 4, and 5. By finishing conference play undefeated with a 4-0 record, the Cats earned a first round bye in the tournament and will play two games in hopes of winning the conference championship.
If the team goes on to win the tournament, the players will head their bus for South Carolina where the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) Division II National Championship tournament will take place beginning May 15. Advancing to the MCLA National Championships would be the first time in the team’s history, a monumental achievement for the club.
Many are unfamiliar with the game of Lacrosse and unaware that MSU has a top notch team. According to MSU Lacrosse coach Mike Robitaille, the team formed in 2003. Since the team’s inception they have had all but one winning season.
At the start the team was student founded and student funded. To join the MCLA, modeled after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the team went through an application process and was selected to join the RMLC conference.
“Before the team became official, a lot of the guys would meet for pick-up games, just to get a chance to play,” says player Pat Hoy. His brother Brian was among the founding members along with alumni Chris Kelley.
Hoy continues, “It started very loose and unorganized but it was obvious that there was a high level of talent in the group.”
“The year after we founded the MSU team we started the Gallatin Valley Lacrosse League (GVLL) to get the local kids involved in the sport,” Hoy said. “It would be great to have more team members come from in state. Our current goalie (Josh Stevens) got his start in the GVLL and has been excellent this season.”
The RMLC Division II conference currently consists of two divisions, an east and west with five teams in each division. The teams abide by a gentlemen’s agreement: Teams switch between playing their competitor at home and at their competitor’s facility.
“Initially, some teams were not honoring their end of the agreement. They didn’t want to travel all the way to Bozeman to play in sub-standard facilities, which often meant that our team was on the road,” Coach Robitaille continues, “but recently the university and the team have built a nice relationship. The university helps fund the program by paying for part of the league dues through the student activity fund and now allows for games to be played in the Bobcat Stadium.”
Road trips wouldn’t be possible without their “Princess.” Princess is the team lacrosse bus that has seen landscapes from Colorado to Washington.
With couches, TV’s and tables, Princess is a key element of team commodore. This season alone the team has traveled to Spokane, Wash., Missoula, Denver, Colo., and will travel to Grand Junction, Colo., for the conference tournament. Unfortunately, the past years haven’t treated Princess too well, and the team had to invest in a new bus this season. Yes, they still call it Princess.
Hoy was instrumental in getting faculty attention for club sports at the university.
“I joined the Associated Students of Montana State University (ASMSU) and helped pass a resolution that showed student support for part of the student activity fee to fund MSU club teams. Any club team can apply for the funding,” says Hoy, “the additional funding helped the lacrosse team to buy a new Princess, a safer bus to travel on as well as necessary playing equipment.”
The team members still pay a player’s fee of $1,000 or $1,500 depending whether the player is rookie status or returner. This year the team started with 33 players on the roster, which far surpasses the number of players in any previous season.
Not only has the MSU faculty recently provided financial support for the team, but now the team is also allowed to practice and play their home games in the Bobcat Stadium. Coach Robitaille emphasizes the importance of the playing in Bobcat Stadium, “The use of the stadium has excited many of the guys on the team as well as the fans.”
Hoy confirms, “The stadium has helped make the season run more smoothly.”
Originally the team could not play home games until later in the season because the field would be covered in snow, so MSU would spend a majority of the season travelling in order to play.
“Now that the stadium is available for games we are able to play at home earlier in the season,” Hoy said.
The MSU Lacrosse team finished the regular season with a 4-0 standing in their division and 11-3 overall. This is one of the best records in the team’s history.
“Now we just have to perform at the conference tournament and keep the momentum going to the end,” says Coach Robitaille.
“We are going into the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first time in the team’s history,” says Hoy. “The team has excelled this season, meeting all our short term goals so far. Competing in nationals is the last one on our list.”
“The team shares a strong bond; really accepting, really supportive. I am excited to see what they turn out in the next couple weekends,” says Robitaille.
If the players aren’t playing or attending classes, they most certainly can be found hanging out together. As a MSU Lacrosse player, no matter the age or skill level, everyone is friends with each other. This formula has translated into success on the lacrosse field thus far and is anticipated by the team to give them an edge in competition.
Hoy concludes, “Fight with the opponent, play nice with your team.”
Edited by David Hoy.